2) Visit the Small Business Reference Center. Do a search for handicrafts. Where could a person sell their work online? In person? Are there any books or book chapters on starting a crafts business? Search using words from a small business owner you've worked with recently. Anything of value in the results?
This time I'm going to mix the answers in with the process. I'll put my answer bits in a different color so you can see them at a glance.
Oh, and by the way, I had to log in a second time when I went to do the second question from the Small Business Reference Center at home. Despite being an EBSCO product, despite having been logged into the BSP interface less than five minutes before. Was this happening to anybody else?
I started this the same night I did question one (or messed up question one, which is probably more accurate.) And upon searching "handicrafts" in the search box in the SBRC and then reading the rest of the question and realizing none of the initial page of results looked likely the meet the details in the question about where to sell online or in person, I added the word "sales" to my search query. Which took me from 498 results to zero. Took it back out to the full results list, stared at the first few delimiters on the left, decided none of those were going to get me any closer to anything on where to sell work specifically. Can't imagine that it being a book or an article would matter, dates might, but not enough to make my date delimiters anything but arbitrary. Which isn't necessarily a wrong approach, but I was suspecting I was going off on the wrong track about as badly as any human being could. Enough for one night.
Back at it the next day from my work computer. Time to try again. Went back, pulled up the 498 item hits list. Looked again at the delimiters on the left, thought, hmm... subject, and clicked the down arrow. None of those related well. Went back up one, clicked on "Subject: Thesaurus term" stared at the first set of results and thought well, maybe "Calendars" would tell me where and when sales were. That would at least get me the part about where I might sell in-person. The second hit in the list: "Shows to See." American Craft, Dec2011/Jan2012, Vol. 71 Issue 6, p15-21 was a winner. An A-Z listing of some craft shows by state. (I'd like to point out right now that the first one in the article was the "Earth, Fire & Fibre" show at our very own Anchorage Museum!) I went back out to my main original search and realized that this particular article was the 4th one in the original list, but for some reason--probably just sheer frustration level last night and the fact that I was focusing on sales and online sales for the first part of the question--I hadn't translated that article title into something that could answer the in-person part of the question.
Resolved to this time actually look at the results in the hits list--because hey, maybe the database folks were actually providing answers even if I didn't recognize them as such--I typed "handicrafts online" into the search box and got one hit. Which was: "Small Things For a Prettier Life." Full Text Available By: SCOTT, GREGORY J.. American Craft, Feb/Mar2011, Vol. 71 Issue 1, p16-16, Well, that didn't look overly promising, but I'd resolved, and I looked at it. The first few paragraphs were all about a brick & mortar craft shop, but towards the top of the second column I spotted the magic word: Etsy. It took a while for them to get there, but they did describe it about halfway through the article as being an online craft sales site with some basic information that would make it clear that this might be a direction somebody willing to sell online might go.
Here's the thing though: I can't imagine there's too many crafters left out there who haven't heard of Etsy. But again, I went to Google and tested it out and typed 'where to sell crafts online.' The first hit was from a blogger who had a list of online sites (Etsy was first on that) and the second hit was Etsy itself. Google is kicking EBSCO's butt on this, I'm afraid... There certainly wasn't any better information in the article I pulled up in the SBRC on Etsy than I found through Google. Mainly because it wasn't the focus of the article.
To make it fair, I went back to SBDC and searched Etsy and came up with 18 results. I looked at the first seven. All of them at least mentioned Etsy in the article. (I'm not clear on how the results list is being sorted...) I'd presumed anybody asking this question might be looking for a tutorial on how to sell on whatever the online site might be--none of these were it. Reviews, one piece on what can happen to server speed with high demand, how Etsy is funded, so forth. Interesting information for somebody doing a, say, Datamonitor report on Etsy, but not the type of stuff I'd expect a member of the public to be after if they came in the door with this question. Add to that the significant load time of these graphics-heavy articles--even on my high speed university connect--and I really can't see that this is the direction I'd go with a relatively pop topic like this that should be easier to find through the non-hidden web. That first blog entry I'd gotten on Google was pretty limited, but did at least provide a little hint as to what to expect with the different online sites when getting started.
Part 3 of the question: book or book chapters on starting a crafts business? Side note here: what I was finding was that to truly clear all my delimiters and search terms out, I had to go back out to basic search on the main interface page. For some reason, my results list were affecting the date delimiters so if I just went back to the top of the page and hit "clear search" and typed in a new term, the date span wouldn't clear out. Weird. So I did handicrafts again, got the 498 results, limited the results list to books, which gave me 1 result. Chapter 17: Crafts." Full Text Available By: Cohen, Sharon L.. 199 Internet-Based Businesses You Can Start with Less Than One Thousand Dollars: Secrets, Techniques & Strategies Ordinary People Use Every Day to Make Millions, 2009, p223-229. I will admit, I didn't want to go read it to make sure it met my criteria (how much time was this process supposed to take us, anyhow?) so since my search term was handicrafts and the title mentions starting a business, I decided it was good enough. I can't imagine why I'd care if it was a book or an article on starting a business anyhow, except maybe as an arbitrary choice to narrow down the results somewhat. Besides, it was probably sheer luck that the one book in the list of 498 items was on a start-up, so if I'd been searching this as a topic, I probably would have refined my search terms or gone back out to the main page and taken my chances with the "Browse by category: start-up kits and business plans" link rather than looking by media type.
Part 4: search words from a small business owner with whom you've worked lately. A friend of mine in Seattle makes mineral makeup and is thinking about selling online AND is moving to LA from Seattle this month, so I figured that might be a good one. How to start up a business in Cali. The question was specific to using search terms so I tried that approach. I used "mineral makeup online" as my terms and my results said: "Note: Your initial search query did not yield any results. However, using SmartText Searching, results were found based on your keywords." 36 results, and it didn't tell me what SmartText Searching was (did it use variants of the words? How can I learn from the process and do it right next time if it doesn't tell me what it fixed?) but the second hit looked promising."5 ways to cash in on mineral cosmetics." Full Text Available By: Uhland, Vicky. Natural Foods Merchandiser, Nov2011, Vol. 32 Issue 11, p22-23. I should have clued in from the journal name that this was for merchandisers carrying other people's products, not for the makeup seller herself. I skimmed through the remaining results, 4 pages despite knowing most people give up after 2 (and again, how are the results sorted? I don't know) and nothing looked great. So forget the instructions for how to answer the question. Back out to the main page, click on Start-Up Kit and Business Plans, click on Small Business Start-Up Kit, and item 6 has stuff on federal, state, and local guidelines. This would be useful. A few other sections in the kit also looked useful for start-up level things, so this is probably where I'd direct somebody asking me about starting a business.
Phew. Question 2 down. And I was hoping to fit more than 1 question per entry but since this is already longer than the Customs House intro to The Scarlet Letter (and not half as interesting), I'll leave the next question for the next blog entry. Fingers crossed this gets easier for me soon. And I'll leave you with an image from a friend's daily desk calendar (she sends me random pages, and this is one that came today).